Seattle Seahawks star running back Marshawn Lynch has made a sport of ignoring the press. At Super Bowl media day on Tuesday, he answered questions with a stock response: “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” He uttered that phrase 29 times in less than five minutes. (Reportedly, the NFL threatened Lynch with a $500,000 fine if he didn’t show). During Wednesday’s media session, he switched things up a bit. “You know why I’m here,” Lynch said 14 times.
Lynch’s performance sparked the typical finger-wagging. “Crass Act,” screamed one columnist. Boycott Skittles! (Lynch has a confectionery deal).
Or is Lynch actually an American hero?
Then there was this tweet:
Wow, that’s quite a proclamation on the importance of one’s profession. Especially in 2015.
Athletes no longer need the media; more specifically, the news organizations that used to have a sweet monopoly on delivering what we now call “content.” (Surely the television and distribution arms thats deliver the actual football action to millions of viewers help underwrite Lynch’s paycheck. But Lynch isn’t sticking it that type of “media.” And the complaints aren’t coming from, say, the network that will draw a record number of eyeballs Super Bowl Sunday, no matter how Lynch behaves). If Lynch wants to put his story and views out there, he can do it himself on Twitter. Or nab a senior editorship at Derek Jeter’s thingy. Or on the team website. Or on Entertainment Tonight, with whom Lynch actually chose to speak.
That’s the key: the choice is his. A more charismatic media presence could win Lynch more endorsement deals. But as long as he can plow through defenses on the football field, he’ll still make millions if he never says a word. You can think Lynch’s act is rude and is doing the media, and a segment of fans, a disservice. You can think the NFL’s fines are draconian. But you just can’t argue that third-party inquisitors are the reason Lynch and his fellow NFL players are the most obsessed-over athletes in the country. If Lynch wants to shut it down, no one will stop watching him play.
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